Sunday, May 30, 2004

A Reader Responds

M., a reader from California, shares the following found example of JDate's seemingly random censoring of certain clusters of letters... -- Perfect First Date: "It would where we first get to know each other. The venue is not that important. We would be relaxed and enthusiastically talk about various su ects. A good place to meet would be a cafe or restaurant." -- "su ects." JDate censors "bj." I don't know if I should be amused or appalled. M., be appalled, and not just at the censoring of BJ (what if the person was talking about a synagogue on the Upper West Side?). Be appalled because this person has constructed a well-oiled cliche to show his (boring) vision of a first date, be it perfect or not. "where we first get to know each other"--this is any date. "enthusiastically talk about various su ects"--even "adding a BJ" here isn't going to help. "A good place to meet would be a cafe or restaurant"--props for spelling restaurant right, a word I still occasionally wrong with a misspelling. But this reminds me of an improv "ask," where we ask the audience for a setting before constructing a scene within that context. You've seen it: "Can you give me a location, where two people might meet?" This is so general that it's really up to the creativity of the individual to tailor it interestingly. A cafe or restaurant? Almost never. More likely, the audience responds with a subway platform, a library, the corner market, a doctor's office...none of which I would select for a first date. But all of which would be more interesting than anything this guy would pick. I'm harsh, I know. Call it high standards, or high-falutin', but I'm simply not willing to compromise on creativity.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Q & A

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here, but I’m back now, with a Q&A inspired by a reader and JDate subscriber in Boston. How about a “profile workshop”? Participants could offer candid critiques on each others’ profiles? Good idea. I’m sure we’ve all had friends look at our profiles and give feedback. But sometimes you need a professional: a friend of mine founded a company that does exactly that. Check, and let him know I sent you! How about a piece on “tips for hiding your email address [in your profile so you don’t have to pay for the service]”? I could definitely publish tips for hiding your email address in the text of the profile, but it's become very difficult to get away with this, since JDate censors have stepped up their censoring of anything that might be an email address. I actually wrote a piece on this for My Urban Kvetch, the other blog I run. I’ve reposted it below for your convenience. You’ll see that the censoring crackdown has resulted in fractured sentences and errors that seem like typos, but aren’t. Irks an editor something awful, I tell you. JDate seems to be pushing this whole “perfection” thing (“perfect first date,” “ideal relationship,” etc.) As often as not, people reject this and write “well, not expecting a perfect first date, but…” Don’t you think JDate could be more in touch with what members consider relevant? Of course. JDate should actually go out with some of these people who have profiles on their service. Then they’d be just as horrified as the rest of us are. In terms of "perfection," people on dating services state their "ideal" because you don't go into a pay service saying "I'll settle for..." If we're going through the rigmarole of defining what we want (which we don't get the advantage of doing in real dating life) we're going to shoot for the moon, so to speak. Almost no one says, “I’d like to date someone who’s visibly flawed, has no sense of romance, and brings his baggage to every interaction.” There seems to be no consensus about whether folks like to chat for chatting’s sake or if an IM automatically means “I’m interested.” Me, I’m a chat fiend, so just enjoy a chance to relate. There’s a definite comraderie that fellow searchers can enjoy (I’ve made a few good friends from contacts in online personals). Some women, when I IM them, their first response is “hold on, I’ll read your profile and see if I think we’re a good match…” Um, hello? There really is such a thing as just saying hello. If I’m looking for a date, I’ll be explicit. Which is why women that I IM seem to be more at ease if they’re not local. In life, yes, there is such a thing as just saying hello. In the context of online dating services, not so much. There are undoubtedly some JDate members who like to chat for chat's sake. But I would think that the general rule is that unless you have something substantial in common with that person that's obvious from the profile, and you're connecting to ask a question specific to that topic (say, improv; or once I contacted someone in St. Louis about a shared love of Buffy), I think most people think the IM chat is a preliminary to dating; most people want to date someone in their geographical area, which is why many might be reluctant to spend their time chatting with someone out of area. In the chatroom, yes, since it’s a gathering place for people from all over, but not the one-on-one of individual IM. Also, you need to remember that most women in their thirties are on JDate not to meet friends, but to meet potential mates, or at least dates. They already have plenty of friends in real life. (Theoretically.) Therefore, a friendly IM from someone out of area who's just saying hello might seem annoying, or a waste of their JDate time/money. If you know you're a chat fiend and often send IMs to women out of your area or who you're just saying hi to, you might want to add that to your profile so people know what they're getting when they hear from you, and will maybe treat it a little less seriously. …and thanks for creating the Jdaters site. I feel pounds lighter now. Dude, I’m so glad to have helped. Disagree with my responses? Got some advice to add? Let me know via the comments function or via email…


(Reprinted with permission of the author--me--from My Urban Kvetch.) Read any number of JDate profiles, and you’ll notice that there seem to be random words missing from the essays. At first, I was blaming the men for their carelessness and laziness, that couldn’t spare the time to proof essays, or they would have found these errors and curtailed my annoyance in advance of my spending time reading them. (“Blame the men” is often my default setting, which is its own problem…) I thought it was random, a glitch in the system, that sporadically caused words to be deleted. After reading hundreds of profiles, I figured out that it's deliberate: JDate deletes words from profiles. I had begun by looking for patterns, feeling not unlike Russell Crowe’s character in A BEAUTIFUL MIND (although I didn’t get good at math as a side effect, and my brilliance seems to be limited to this particular discovery, so that’s where the similarity ends. But I did invent a handsome male companion who looks like Paul Bettany to accompany me through this endeavor. His name is Fabrizio. You’ll meet him soon, unless I start taking my anti-psychotic meds again…) Here’s what I discovered—there are two reasons a word may be deleted: * If JDate censors determine that the word in question is part of an email address. * If JDate censors determine that the word in question may be perceived as a curse word. For the uninitiated, it is free to post a profile on JDate, but if you want to contact anyone, you have to pay the piper/prue/paige/phoebe (CHARMED fans will get that), to the tune of about $30 a month. Lots of people try to get around this fee by embedding their email address within their profile. Periodically (I believe it’s any time you change your profile), JDate must run the essays through some Boolean filter or something. And any time the word ‘hotmail,’ ‘yahoo’ or ‘America’ appears (or the word ‘com’ following the word ‘dot’), it is deleted, because it is perceived as an attempt to circumvent JDate’s system. I embedded my email address a few times, first unsuccessfully and then successfully, but you have to disguise that it’s an email address so much that if you're successful, the result is that your profile makes you sound deranged. It is all fine and well that JDate’s trying to protect their services and keep them for paying members only. But this filter-and-remove system also confuses readers, as it routinely eliminates words that are necessary to understanding what the member is trying to convey: I figured this out when I included the following sentence in my profile: “I believe that basic cable (Comedy Central and the possibility of seeing THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION forty times each day) is the right of every American.” The day after I made this change, I looked at my profile and discovered that the word America had been deleted, leaving a lonely, widowed n on its own, looking very much like…(creepy drumroll)…a typo. This would not do. A typo in my profile? No way—I’ve got a rep to protect. Now I have to remember to censor myself, to steer clear of the word America in my JDate essays. That’s literally the most un-American thing I’ve ever experienced. Then there’s the issue with obscenities. This is mind-boggling, because references to porn go untouched, but any juxtaposition of the letters a, s, and s are targeted for extermination. How’d I figure this out? Here was the clue for me: “I like activities such urfing.” Clearly, the writer of this profile did not intend to convey that he was an urfing fanatic (although urfing does sound fun). Then I looked at the missing letters, and EUREKA! The missing letters spelled ass!! Even with a space between the letters, JDate’s search engine must have picked up on this: “Ooh, you rascally clients, you—trying to sneak a naughty word like ass into your profile…” In reality, none of these clients were trying to do this. It was an unlucky placement of letters that led to words being deleted and creating the impression that the profile’s writer is illiterate or careless. The slippery slope here is clear. It’s only a matter of time before we’ll have sentences like this to look forward to: “ensible an ensible can be, I’ll ess your profile before contacting you. If thi s all the right note cept musical ones, LOL, contact me.” (Not a code-cracker yet? Try this version: “As sensible an American as sensible can be, I’ll assess your profile before contacting you. If this hits all the right notes except musical ones, LOL, contact me.”)

Sunday, May 23, 2004

AT THE END OF THE RAINBOW I feel like I may have reached the end of the JDate rainbow. Only instead of a pot of gold, there's one of those recycling bins, a receptacle for all the guys I ever went on one or two doomed dates with. Some of them remember me, but more often, I remember them first, and more clearly. And they take this to mean that I liked them. But more often than not, the impression, while deeply etched, was not necessarily a positive one. Seeing them is always awkward, especially when I apparently didn't make enough of an impression for them to acknowledge remembering me. It also hurts more than a little that I'm still out here, canvassing the scene, looking for Him, so divine and elusive an ideal that I might as well capitalize it. Him. He, whoever He is, is somewhere. He's probably up, like me, on JDate and watching Ghostbusters on TNT at 2:30 in the morning. He'll probably be at tomorrow's Salute to Israel Parade on Fifth Avenue. He's probably started his own blog, to record and analyze his experiences, so he might learn. But whoever He is, He'll make an impression on me. And I'll make one back. And it will be positive. And maybe then, at the other end of the JDate rainbow, there'll be a pot of dating gold.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

CLICHEBOY TAKES ON JDATE'S...UMM...CLICHES ClicheBoy, the satirical JDate alter ego of a single guy named Jay, echoes my feelings about the cliches that people use in their profiles. If I could figure out how to use TrackBack, here's where I'd start, but in the interim, check him out at: ClicheBoy (scroll down to the May 8th entry).

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

WHAT'S YOUR PROFILE PET PEEVE? You know you have them. Those things in people's profiles that really irk you something awful. It doesn't matter if the person profiled looks like Brad Pitt or Jennifer Aniston: you see this phrase, and you're outta there. It can be a simple statement or a run-on sentence, but it is probably a few boring words strung together that don't tell you much of anything about the person. So, which profile proclamations constitute your pet peeves, and why? I'll share a few to start you off: * "Friends and family are important to me." (Duh...) * "I like to laugh." (Bully for you. I like to breathe.) * "She should feel as comfortable in jeans as she does in a little black dress." (This describes no one I know. Sweats are the most comfortable, but no one brags about that...) * Spelling errors in third-grade level words, misused verbiage or excessive use of the abbreviation LOL. * "She should have a sense of humor (laugh at my jokes)." (Hello, not the same thing.) And oh, there are more. But I'll open the floor to comments from the peanut gallery.
A Reader Responds... "I'm a man in my 50s, viewing your page...Reading your entry made me wonder...perhaps it's just that men in their 50s are the ones more likely to appreciate you/your blog/someone like you? That doesn't necessarily mean that something about you appeals to older men. Maybe, or even more likely, it's that men, in general, don't appreciate these things in a woman until we are in our 50s. At that point we finally begin to realize the interest and attraction of intelligent, nuanced women. Perhaps we (men in our 50s) just long for women our own or closer to our own age who explore, luxuriate in words, perhaps we don't find them elsewhere. Or again, putting the fault on our side, don't KNOW how to look for them except in disembodied web pages. Here we see women inside before we judge them on the outside." Interesting points. Then he continues: "On the other hand, do you know of women in their 50s, also on JDate, who write blogs? Are there many? All those I've seen are by younger women. I'd love to be pointed to their blogs or web pages." Got an answer? A comment? A reaction? Comment away, my friends...

Monday, May 10, 2004

A JDATERS ANONYMOUS PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: A MATTER OF SIZE A little hint, boys: When emailing, IM'ing or talking to your intended JDate lady on the phone, DO NOT ask her what her bra size is. I know some of you are definitely "breast men," but to have this subject come up in the first conversation is simply not appropriate. I didn't think it was such a far-reaching problem, but after hearing the same complaint from three different women in three different cities, I can only assume that there's either one perp whose interests span the nation, or that this is becoming a more common question. Ladies, should you find yourself asked this question, I wanted to suggest a few appropriate responses: "I'm an Infiniti ZX." (This should confuse them.) "None of your business, and I must bid you good day, sir. I said, GOOD DAY!!" (This is very good if you're British and live in the 19th Century.) "Well, now you'll never know." (Particularly effective followed by an immediate hangup.) "Well, I'll tell you, but I have to ask you how many inches you are. I only date men in double digits. Unless you'd be willing to get a penile implant..." (When you hear nothing from the other end of the phone, feel free to hang up.) In summary: If you want to know if a woman is well-endowed, wait. Work on your inner monologue and your conversational filters. If you're charming and sincere, you might get to find out for yourself. But this is not important information to know before you even meet her... Growing up in yeshivaland, there were always a couple of boys who talked about a woman's middot (values) and meant middot (size) wasn't charming then, nor is it now... So ask us other things--about what we read, what we think, what we like to do, but steer clear of a question like this one, unless you're getting the clear green light. If at any point you encounter a woman who likes to be asked this question before the first date, please have her write an entry for this blog and send it to JDaters Anonymous. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

I'VE BEEN FOUND/ON A LIGHTER NOTE... Well, that didn't take long at all. I built it, and people came. And they officially pronounced this site "depressing." To depress others was never my intention--I wanted to create a community so we could bond through our experiences, good and bad, and find hope in each other. But until other people start to contribute, I'm here on my own. And I've got to brighten up the place with a little humor. So, I give you "Seuss and the City," from the New York Jewish Week, 3/5/04. It is a humorous, hopeful tale of one woman's dating odyssey in New York City. Enjoy... Seuss and The City by Esther D. Kustanowitz - Special To The Jewish Week There once was a girl who lived in the City And yearned for a guy who was smart, fun and witty. Every week, after shul, she had Shabbat dinner But hadn’t yet met the one guy who could win her. So to make her love life a bit less inert She went on a quest to find her bashert. One Friday at BJ, in the Upper West 80s, She sat in the pews amidst hundreds of ladies. The scene that Shabbat was singles a-plenty, Ranging in ages from 50 to 20. But the organ-based service just wasn’t her style, Even before people danced in the aisle. Saturday night, over Drip’s apple pie, she decided to go give speed dating a try. “Why are you here?” “What do you do?” “What’s your position on ‘Who is a Jew?’” “Do you like your family?” “Have you been to the kotel?” “Should we get a room later at a local hotel?” Besieged by the questions, she ran into the night and sought sweet, cold refuge in Tasti-D-Lite. On Sunday, she met her friend Sue at Makor to see what that center for Jews had in store. They had some Merlot in the basement cafe and met two great guys — both turned out to be gay. Monday brought time at the new JCC, The building a-gleaming, the hip place to be. She went to a program that got her bells ringing: a screening of “Grease,” with lyrics for singing! She arrived at the place with vocal cords poised, But of the assembled, there were only two boys. She went out to Fairway on alternate Tuesdays, walking past kiosks of Time Outs and Newsdays. Buying produce for dinners and cooking for one was more cost-effective, but not too much fun. She also checked out the nearby Zabar’s scene, with its pickles and olives, and babkas by Green’s, She swore to herself: if she found no takers, by this time next year, she’d own a breadmaker. Wednesday, at Xando, she scarfed down some s’mores and ducked former JDates because they were bores. She went out to dances and lectures and stuff and found, with each day, it was getting more tough. Why was it so hard? She could not understand — it wasn’t world peace — she just wanted a man! Familiar with Hebrew and maybe some Yiddish he’d know that the motzi’s preceded by kiddush. This Jew would be close both in spirit and miles, and would be of good humor, with generous smiles. Should she, like Madonna, go kabbalistic? No, she decided, once again realistic. But where else to go? What else to do? She sometimes wished she just wasn't a Jew. Then she’d date any man she found attractive without worries of parents gone hyper-reactive. 'Is he observant? Is he Reform? Is he agnostic? Are we getting warm?' They hadn’t been right, not then and not ever — She began to believe she’d be lonely forever. Then, one Thursday night, after great Kung Pao Chicken, she opened a fortune cookie, and felt her pulse quicken. It read: “Don’t stay home, alone in your cloister: the City is yours: one big kosherized oyster.” Pondering this, she sipped tea with a sigh and decided to give the old scene a new try. She knows that she’ll know when the chemistry’s right — Until then, she’ll always have Tasti-D-Lite. She’ll use all her assets: her wit and her smarts will help to attract the most caring of hearts. Her future is bright, full of roads not yet tried, and she’s forging ahead, ’cause her world’s open wide.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

AGE BEFORE BEAUTY After having several men in their fifties viewing my page, and yes, even trying to contact me, I find myself wondering about age. It's such an arbitrary thing--we decide that we want a man between the ages of 29 and 40, and no one above or below that range need apply. But in viewing the thousands of profiles on JDate, you realize that youth is really relative. You find guys who look like they're in their late 40s, even though they're only in the beginning of their thirties, and you get other guys in their 40s who look like they're fresh out of college. So, does age matter? When you meet someone, the first thing you see is never their age. You can date someone for months without knowing whether he is 37 or 40 or 34. The truth is, unless someone's biological clock is ticking, age doesn't come up. At least not naturally. It may come up contextually, as in playing Jewish Geography--if your date attended Brandeis, you are automatically compelled to ask: "Ohmigawd! What year'd you graduate?" and you might find out your date's age that way. But the things we know about JDaters before we meet them, or before we even exchange IM's, set up an artificial image in our minds. When people meet, no one says: "Esther, this is Sven. He's 38, 5'10 and likes to laugh." Similarly, I rarely say things like "Hi, my name is Esther, and I am equally comfortable in a black cocktail dress or jeans." This struck me as odd. I wonder what would happen if we started introducing ourselves that way in real life...